After falling to a record low in 2005, Virginia's tobacco acreage is anticipated to jump 29 percent for 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Based on a survey conducted last month by the department, the state's tobacco farmers expect to plant 22,180 acres of tobacco in 2006, an increase of 5,000 acres from 2005.
A report by The Associated Press said the growth can be attributed to a decrease in left-over tobacco from previous growing seasons. Of the Virginian tobacco sold in 2005, 42.5 million pounds, or 20 percent, was harvested the year prior, said Stan Duffer, regional market manager for the Virginia Department of Agriculture. As less tobacco is left-over, farmers will have to plant more to compensate, the report stated.
Another factor for the increase is the growing demand for U.S. tobacco. According to the report, Congress approved a $10 billion buyout of the tobacco-quota program in 2004, resulting in lower pricing and increased competition as government-mandated price supports were eliminated.
Don Anderson, a farmer in Halifax County and executive director for the Virginia Tobacco Growers' Association told The Associated Press, "The buyout is having the intended results: to allow our tobacco to be sold more widely on the world market, and to be used more widely by the domestic [cigarette] companies to replace imported tobacco."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the growth is in the flue-cured tobacco, which is the most common grown in Virginia and used in cigarettes. In 2004, tobacco crops brought $113 million to Virginia farmers, the report stated. Despite this gain, it still does not compare to the 50,000 acres that were grown per year a decade ago.